OXFORD, Miss. – The Ole Miss cross country team is set to participate in the 2011 Southeastern Conference Cross Country Championships on Monday, hosted by the University of Tennessee.
The meet will be held at the Lambert Acres Golf Club in Maryville, Tenn., a hilly course that played host to the 2008 NCAA South Regional.
The men’s 8K race is scheduled for 9 a.m. CT, while the women’s 6K race is slated for a 10 a.m. CT start. Admission to the event is free, and the awards ceremony will follow both races.
The Rebel women have had one of their most successful seasons in school history, capturing the team title at the Brooks Memphis Twilight Classic and Delaware Invitational. The team added a strong third-place finish at last month’s Greater Louisville Classic, before finishing second two weekends ago at the Crimson Classic in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
The Ole Miss women will enter the meet ranked No. 9 in the South Region in the most recent USTFCCCA poll and are looking to build on the ninth-place finish they turned in last year. All eyes will be on race favorite Vanderbilt, who enters the meet ranked No. 3 in the national USTFCCCA poll and is ranked No. 2 in the South Region. The Arkansas Razorbacks are ranked No. 14 nationally and No. 2 in the South Central Region.
The meet will mark the final league championship race for senior Logan Waites, who has led the Rebels throughout her career. Waites claimed two individual titles this season at the Brooks Memphis Twilight Classic and Delaware Invitational, while also racking up two SEC Athlete of the Week awards this year. She has finished in the top 10 in every 2011 race.
“Between fourth and seventh or eighth, there is not much difference in the teams in our league,” said Ole Miss associate head coach Doug Blackwell, who mentors the cross country teams. “We are hoping to have our highest finish ever at the SECs on the women’s side. We have seven to eight women running extremely well right now We expect Logan to finish very high and compete for an All-SEC spot, as well as Katie.”
The Ole Miss men will also look to cap a successful season, but will have to do so without two-time defending SEC champion Barnabus Kirui, who finished his eligibility last fall and finished his career as one of only four runners in league history to capture three titles.
However, his brother, senior Martin Kirui will lead the Rebel men, who enter the meet ranked No. 8 in the South Region. Kirui finished 14th at last year’s championship and was named to the All-SEC second team.
Sophomore Kipchirchir Kiptoo, who was an SEC All-Freshman team performer at the SEC Championships last year, is also expected to run well for the young Ole Miss squad. Junior Riley Young will join three sophomores Al Lowe, Loren Newsom and Max Holman on the starting line for Monday’s championship.
The Rebel men finished fifth at last year’s SEC Championship, their best performance since 1996, and are hoping for another strong finish this year. The nationally ranked No. 15 Arkansas Razorbacks headline the men’s field.
“It’s wide open on the men’s side,” Blackwell said. “If everybody is running on all cylinders, we can finish in the top half of the league. Martin should finish in the top 10 and with a really good race could be in the top two or three. Kip should also finish in the top 15 with a good race.”
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